The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
McCain-Feingold: Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002
Senator John F. Kerry, on being presented with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library's "Distinguished American Award"--a bust of John Kennedy--had a "conversation" with Tom Oliphant of the Boston Globe, in which Kerry said the following:
"There has been," he said, "a profound and negative change in the relationship of America's media with the American people. . . . If 77 percent of the people who voted for George Bush on Election Day believed weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq--as they did--and 77 percent of the people who voted for him believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11--as they did--then something has happened in the way in which we are talking to each other and who is arbitrating the truth in American politics. . . . When fear is dominating the discussion and when there are false choices presented and there is no arbitrator, we have a problem." [Emphasis is mine-SW]
"We learned," Kerry continued, "that the mainstream media, over the course of the last year, did a pretty good job of discerning. But there's a subculture and a sub-media that talks and keeps things going for entertainment purposes rather than for the flow of information. And that has a profound impact and undermines what we call the mainstream media of the country. And so the decision-making ability of the American electorate has been profoundly impacted as a consequence of that. The question is, what are we going to do about it?"
Free speech is under attack in this country and has been for some time. The left, which includes much of Academia, the MSM, and parts of the Hollywood establishment, has accused the Bush administration of stifling free speech. Usually, what they mean is that someone from the right side of the political spectrum has had the temerity to criticize their speech. As I have pointed out elsewhere (Defeat, Humiliation, and Rage), people whose political beliefs become important attributes of their self esteem regulation, do not respond well to criticism. Anyone who reads, knows that there have been increasing efforts from the left over the years to limit speech. Two recent incidents worthy of comment that have been in the press and commented on in the blogospere come from academia, ie the feminist attacks on Lawrence Summers (which I wrote about in Political Religion) and the media, ie Susan Estrich's attacks on Michael Kinsley over his lack of the proper proportion of female to male writers on the L.A. Times Op-Ed page about which Catherine Seipp, in Flailing Feminists, wrote a particularly lucid and entertaining commentary.
New Sisyphus had this response to Kerry's comments quoted above:
You may be surprised to hear that the MSM “did a pretty good job of discerning” over the last year, given that the New York Times, CBS and the BBC all had to fire lead personnel over the fact that they just damn well made stuff up out of whole cloth in service to an obviously partisan political agenda. But then, if you’re reading this, your part of a dangerous sub-culture, aren't you?
And what, Senator, are we going to do about these dangerous people that keep disagreeing with the MSM and have the nasty habit of not keeping their ill-informed, non-making-stuff-up mouths shut? Here we see the cold iron of the liberal’s tendency to want to shut their opponents up that lies behind the calm façade and the Birkenstocks.
I am especially interested in Kerry's comments about the missing arbiter; it would surprise no one to learn that the missing arbiter of the "truth in American politics" would be, if not Kerry himself, someone who comes from his point of view and meets his approval.
At this point you might be wondering how this could relate to a Psychoanalytic perspective? I hope to be able to show how this is, in fact, intimately related to the interplay between people's conscious intentions and their unconscious desires.
As always for a Psychoanalyst, one starts in the earliest experiences of the person. Margaret Mahler wrote extensively about early childhood development. In her theory of development, she described a normal undifferentiated (autistic, then symbiotic) phase followed eventually by separation and individuation. A brief recap can be found here. Mahler described how the 10 month old infant (at the beginning of the differentiation phase), just beginning to stand upright and making his first tentative steps, develops a "love affair with the world". An infant who has the safety and security of his mother's watchful, loving eye, ventures forth into the world with a thrill of discovery. Everything is new and exciting. Everything has to be touched and held and tasted. The child is encouraged by the delight he sees in his mother's eye when he achieves a new level of development. The first baby steps are a moment of delight for the parents and the child. The child is thrilled and excited both by his parents' reaction and by his growing mastery over himself. As a child grows and develops, he gains greater and greater mastery over himself (his musculature, as in ambulation and fine and gross motor activity) and his environment. He learns to master his bodily functions (urine and bowel control) as well; the differentiating child takes great pleasure in his ability to control himself.
Along with the gains, the movement forward in development, there are accompanying losses. Mastery and control also imply the loss of some freedoms. When a child reaches the age of 18-24 months, some remarkable things take place. Up until this age the child has existed in a blissful world of omnipotence. If they are hungry, they cry, and food appears; if they need to be held and emotionally nurtured, they cry, and the mother appears; if they feel like voiding, they void; if they wish to sleep, they sleep. They essentially can do whatever they want (whatever they are capable of) with no limitations. While many of us continue to have wishes to do whatever we want whenever we want, this blissful state can not, and does not, last. By this point, the child has learned to say, "No". He is separate from his mother and begins to recognize that her desires are not always congruent with his; his fantasy of omnipotence is shattered. Some children, perhaps because of constitutional reasons, or perhaps because of an insecure attachment to an unavailable mother (depressed, narcissistic), have a very limited ability to tolerate separation and frustration. Some of these children develop the kinds of narcissistic vulnerabilities I have talked about in prior posts (Narcissism, Malignant Narcissism, and Paranoia, parts I, II, III, IV).
[It is important to keep in mind throughout this discussion that the development of the self, as characterized by Kohut in his work on Narcissism, coexists and develops along with the separation-differentiation described by Mahler; they are simply two different ways of conceptualizing an extraordinarily complex process which culminates in a stable character organization. Freud's ideas of psycho-sexual development, with significant modifications, and the development of the conceptual apparatus as first described by Piaget, or the newer material from the attachment theorists, must all be taken into account as well in understanding how people become who they are. Most analysts are more comfortable with one theory or another, and each therapeutic approach works better as explication for some patients than for others; it is an open question how much we will ever understand of the mind, but that is for another time.]
We have arrived at a crucial point. During development, children who have a "good enough" (see D. W. Winnicott) relationship with their parents are able to negotiate the development step from (fantasies) of omnipotence to accepting their real limitations, including their loss of the closeness with their mother that they had thought was theirs alone, and their fantasies and wishes of being in charge of all they survey. We probably all know the obsessive compulsive types who keep incredibly orderly desks, and have to always have things their way. Most of the time, these are people who had more than the usual difficulty in giving up their needs to control others (starting with their mothers). People who start to show up on the outlying regions of the bell curve of normality may be even more problematic, with the need to control others, ranging from intimate relationships, to co-workers and friends, to subordinates. They have trouble allowing others to make decisions, insisting they know the best answers to any question. These are often people who we come to avoid because we do not appreciate the choice they offer: Do what I say, or fight.
In the interest of brevity, I will take a break here. We have shown how everyone, as part of their psychological development, must come to terms with the loss of control inherent in the collision of our infantile desires with reality. Those who do more poorly in negotiating this process can range from the typical "control freak" to the more symptomatic (as with an obsessional compulsive disorder) or with the libidinized version (seen in dominance-submissive and much sado-mascohistic behavior); further outliers may show their pathology in more virulent ways, which can include aspects of paranoia and sociopathy. In general, these people are fairly obvious in their controlling agenda, and are not our major concern at this moment. My concern is with those who are "healthier", who disguise their needs to be controlling using intellectual defenses, and because they don't recognize their own unconscious wishes, their desire to limit our speech arises from the best of intentions...and we all know where that leads.
More to follow...